Commuters entering Seven Sisters underground station in north London now have a brighter start to their journeys courtesy of architectural collective Assemble, which with artist Matthew Raw has conceived and created a bijou coffee shop clad in handmade ceramic tiles. Commissioned to create an artwork for the station by Transport for London’s Art on the Underground programme, the designers identified a derelict newsagent’s kiosk as a site for a project with a long-term legacy.
The existing structure was strengthened and made watertight, and its outward form modified with integral bench seating, an overhanging cornice and a corner ‘tower’ that is intended to give the small building a civic presence. It was then clad in tiles made by colouring blocks of plain white clay with body stain and mixing together different combinations before they are sized, rolled, moulded, cut, dried, fired and glazed. Curved specials were produced in a kiln installed in the kiosk during the construction process, while flat tiles were made and fired in Assemble’s own studio.
An Arts Council grant allowed for the employment of two local trainees who assisted with the production of tiles. Other local residents were able to participate in on-site ceramics workshops. “The process of this project is as important as the outcome”, says Eleanor Pinfield, head of Art on the Underground.
“Our collaboration with Matthew Raw for this Art on the Underground commission has been a great opportunity to experiment with architectural ceramics techniques and designs, something which has a rich history when it comes to the space of the underground”, says Assemble. “We were interested in the impact that a small corner building could have if it was brought back in to use after having lain empty for ten years and was treated with an extraordinary amount of care.”